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News Wrap: American kidnapped by al-Qaida makes video plea from Pakistan

December 26, 2013 at 12:00 AM EDT
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JUDY WOODRUFF: American retailers opened their after-Christmas offensives today, hoping to salvage the season. Pre-Christmas sales have been down from a year ago.

Meanwhile, UPS and Federal Express faced angry complaints after thousands of gifts failed to arrive for Christmas. The companies blamed bad weather and too many last-minute orders.

Wall Street got its post-Christmas period off to a big start. The Dow Jones industrial average gained 122 points to close near 16,480. The Nasdaq rose more than 11 points to close at 4,167.

The United States has begun sending new weapons to Iraq to battle renewed violence by al-Qaida militants. Reports today said that the weapons include surveillance drones and Hellfire missiles. We will get more details on the U.S. assistance and what it means right after the news summary.

An American kidnapped in Pakistan two years ago pleaded today for President Obama to negotiate his release. Seventy-two-year-old Warren Weinstein was taken from his home in Lahore in August of 2011. His al-Qaida captors released a video message from today, the first in more than a year.

WARREN WEINSTEIN, American held captive by al-Qaida: Nine years ago, I came to Pakistan to help my government. And I did so at a time when most Americans wouldn’t come here. And now, when I need my government, it seems that I have been totally abandoned and forgotten.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Al-Qaida has demanded the U.S. halt airstrikes in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia, and Yemen, and release al-Qaida suspects around the world. The White House has insisted it will not negotiate.

African leaders arrived in South Sudan today, trying to broker an end to nearly two weeks of fighting. The president of Kenya and the prime minister of Ethiopia flew into Juba, the South Sudanese capital. Later, they met with the South Sudanese president, Salva Kiir. Meanwhile, a U.N. envoy said additional peacekeepers should arrive within 48 hours.

Next door to South Sudan, six African Union peacekeepers have died in the Central African Republic. The soldiers were from Chad. The A.U. says the group was attacked on Christmas Day by a Christian militia in the capital city of Bangui. The country’s majority Christians accuse the Chadian troops of supporting fellow Muslims who seized power nine months ago.

In Thailand, the government rejected calls to delay elections now set for February after street battles erupted in Bangkok. A police officer was killed and hundreds injured as anti-government protesters fought with police. The demonstrators threw rocks and bricks at police, who fired back with tear gas and rubber bullets.

Protests in Ukraine gained new intensity today after an opposition journalist was brutally beaten. Tetyana Chornovil was chased down in her car late last night and attacked by several assailants. Today, thousands of people surrounded the Interior Ministry in Kiev, holding pictures of Chornovil and demanding justice.

WOMAN (through interpreter): I have been expecting for a long time that they will do something that will wake everybody up and make people understand that they cannot live like this anymore. We do not deserve such treatment. They don’t have any right to beat people up. They don’t have any right to ignore us.

JUDY WOODRUFF: The protests began after the government rejected closer ties with the European Union, turning instead to Russia.

A truce was in effect today in a rebel suburb of Damascus, Syria, to allow in supplies of food and medicine. The Syrian military agreed to the halt in fighting after the rebels agreed to hand over heavy weapons and raise the Syrian flag. Locals say that they had been shelled and starved for nearly a year.  A Pennsylvania appeals court has overturned the conviction of Monsignor William Lynn for mishandling a sex abuse scandal. He was the first Roman Catholic Church official convicted of moving predator priests from one parish to another, but the court ruled he cannot be held legally responsible. For now, Lynn remains in prison. Prosecutors promise to appeal today’s ruling.

The alleged gunman in the shootings at Los Angeles International Airport pleaded not guilty today. Paul Anthony Ciancia is charged with the murder of a security screener and other felonies. Authorities say he had a grudge against the Transportation Security Administration. His federal trial is set for February 11.

President Obama signed the bipartisan budget deal today while on vacation in Hawaii. The bill restores some of the automatic cuts in defense and domestic programs. The president also signed a defense bill that includes a military pay raise and new rules governing sexual assault cases.